Idioms are a common part of speech and a fun vehicle to help emerging bilingual students communicate and understand conversational English. Getting your students familiar with them early on can help them communicate more naturally and give them a deeper understanding of the English language.
I love children’s books and have long collected bilingual titles for use in my classroom. Picture books aren’t just for early readers. Many fantastic picture books concisely teach a concept, portray a literary device, or fill in background knowledge in a way that can not only fit into one class period but also keep readers’ (or listeners’) attention.
An idiom is a form of figurative language that can be especially difficult for emerging bilingual students. They’re a lot of fun to teach and to learn, and as students begin to use them in their own speech, they will sound more like native speakers and become better listeners, more in tune to colloquial English.
Language Lizard Idiom Books
I am delighted to share a new series of books published by Language Lizard, LLC that introduces English idioms to children in many diverse languages. Bilingual versions of the books provide idiom translations and meanings in the child’s home language, making them easier for English learners to understand.
I was recently gifted Fresh as a Daisy: English Nature Idioms to review on my blog. It is one of four books in a series, each with a different theme:
- Fresh as a Daisy – English Nature Idioms
- Icing on the Cake – English Food Idioms
- The Lion’s Share – English Animal Idioms
- With Flying Colors – English Color Idioms
The idioms are presented with characters and settings from around the world, using clever multicultural illustrations, side-by-side translations, and an English example sentence.
Virtual Teaching Activities with Idioms
One of the activities I have had success with virtually is Running Dictation and idioms work really well for this activity. I begin by assigning roles to each students:
- Runner/Reader – Reads / memorizes the sentence and when ready, goes to the breakout room (or another part of the classroom if teaching in-person) to dictate it to their classmates. I help them with pronunciation and they can return to the main room as often as they like to read it again.
- Writer – Writes the sentence into their notebook.
- Artist – Draws the sentence in detail to show understanding.
I then send all students to a breakout room (my groups are small so thus far, they have all gone to a single room but groups of 3-4 are ideal) and ask the “Runner / Reader” to stay in the main room. I screen share the idiom in the main room. When the runner reports that he has finished, I close the break out room and encourage everyone to compare what they wrote with the original. Artists are also invited to share their drawings with the class which always brings out the laughter. With each new sentence, students get a new role.
The Language Lizard, LLC books also come with free multicultural lessons and activities to support culturally responsive teaching.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 (1/29/21) is in its 8th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.
Eight years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about our Mission & History HERE.
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